Springbank 12, Burgundy Cask, 53.5%

We’re venturing into dangerous territory. Y’all know I absolutely worship Springbank for more or less everything they do. However, every now and the a wine cask release pops up and it’s getting sketchy.

Mostly, because in general wine cask usage is a bit sketchy (some exceptions exist), and it’s not always that it works with Springbank’s spirit. Let’s see how this one turned out.

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Funky with lots of wine cask. The funkiness is typical for Springbank, with hessian, attic mold and old grain. Fruity and woody, spices and a small whiff of smoke.

Sip:
Strong and pretty sharp, before fruitiness and some sweetness kick in. Chili heat, lots of rancio and oak.

Swallow:
A warming finish that is suddenly a bit meaty, with lots of oak, and moldy fruit. That weird sweetness…

That weird sweetness that’s not normally there in Springbank whiskies tells me that this is a bottling I’m glad I didn’t buy. I would have probably finished it at some point but with everything else the distillery releases, I guess I’d rather have any other Springbank.

Having said that, though, it’s not exactly a bad whisky. It’s just not overly interesting and has some weird flavors that don’t work well for me.

82/100

Springbank 12, 1st Fill Burgundy Casks, 2003-2016, 53.5%

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Johnnie Walker Black Label, 1970s bottling, 40%

20190915_135522About a decade ago, you could buy random bottles like this in auction just to spread the shipping costs over more than one bottle. I looked it up in the backlog of the auction site where I got this one from, and I paid € 21 for the bottle.

Twentyone euros for a bottle of blended whisky bottled in the seventies. Which put distillation of this in the early to mid-sixties. For that money I’m in!

I think I’ve only had one older Black Label and that was bottled in 1958 and was approaching Brora like levels of intensity and flavor. Short to say, I loved that!

20190915_135515Sniff:
Lots of that very old blend character. Dunnage warehouses, with wet soil and cement, mold and fungus. Old barley, thick porridge, some oak.

Sip:
Quite intense without being sharp. Some sweetness from grains and alcohol. Very consistent with the nose. Quite rich on grains, wood and those hessian, moldy, leathery flavors.

Swallow:
A very smooth and warming finish. Quite long with a bit of dryness of the grain and oak.

Better than the average contemporary single malt. So much depth, and character. It’s not as good as the 1958 one, but it’s almost 20 years newer so I didn’t expect that either. This is a cracking whisky and there’s not much stuff bottled today that reaches the uniqueness of this, nor the intensity of it (except when bottled at high strength, but that’s not what I mean).

I might have to get to checking auctions again, and see if stuff like this is still around…

90/100

Johnnie Walker Black Label, bottled in the (mid?) seventies, 40%

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Glen Scotia 15yo, 2001, Mashman’s Reserve, 58.2% – Distillery Only

As with most Distillery Only bottlings, you actually have to go to the distillery to pick it up. Which is yet another good reason to visit such a little piece of heaven on earth.

I picked this one up at an ‘after hours‘ tour during our trip to Scotland in April 2018, together with a Sherry Cask that had just been released too (which I apparently still have to review).

This one was bottled to celebrate the mashman that works the distillery. An amazing guy which we were lucky enough to meet. A farmer as well with, according to the stories, a very good stamina with little to no need for sleep. Callum told us he runs the farm as well as the mashing at the distillery, even in spring when the sheep are having their lambs and he gets only about four hours of sleep. Anyway, great chap, let’s celebrate by drinking whisky!

20190914_195005Sniff:
Sweet with very malt driven scents. Lots of barley, porridge, bread, without being one-dimensional. Twigs, oak, some vanilla. In the background I get some lemon balm, thyme, focaccia.

Sip:
The palate is rather intense, but there’s a line of sweetness that keeps it in check. Pastry-like with lots of bread, pastry cream, some herbs as well. Quite some white oak, focaccia or ciabatta, flour and the burnt bits. Thyme, rosemary, olive oil.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more sweet and vanilla like. It goes back to the porridge flavors, more so than the bread from before. Slightly cornflake like too.

So, this is an interesting whisky to say the least. I’m nearing the end of my bottle which has influenced the palate a little bit. I still love it, but it was better half a bottle ago.

I do like that there’s those bready flavors in there, but rather different than I get most of the times. The olive oil and focaccia with some herbs gives a nice twist on a familiar theme. Add to that the quality spirit of Glen Scotia and you’ve got a happy camper in me.

The only drawback is that this 15 year old whisky set me back over a hundred quid, which is a bit steep, if you ask me.

89/100

Glen Scotia 2001-2017, 15yo, First Fill Bourbon Barrel 626, 58.2%, Mashman’s Reserve

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Kilchoman Inaugural Release, 2009, 3yo, 46%

Little under a decade ago I was about to move to Krommenie, and my wife went on a short holiday with her sister. Which resulted in me finally finding the time to drive to Sint Oedenrode and visit The Old Pipe with my friends TT.

I had been collecting some bottles that needed picking up and paying for. This one, honestly, was one of the least interesting ones, even though it was the very first ‘whisky’ from Kilchoman ever to be tried. The others were OB Brora’s from 1974, and two 1981 Rosebanks from the Rare Malts series. This one got lost in that violence.

But, after a long while I finally opened my bottle and only this week I finished it. The bottle has long been recycled, but I still had a sample of it lying around which, as with these samples of the last few weeks, I had completely forgotten.

Since 2009 I’ve tried numerous Kilchomans, which isn’t hard since the distillery is rather prolific, with loads of strange casks coming from it. Of course, the sherry and bourbon casks are the best (imho), but there’s a market for anything from Islay, and they need the cash flow, so who can blame them.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Quite smoky, with lots of barley and brine. Very coastal, and very Islay-like. Lots of straw and dry grass, lots of sand, lots of salinity.

Sip:
The palate is not too sharp, but you do taste the youthfulness of this first release of Kilchoman. Very grassy, lowlands-like, but with a significant amount of peatsmoke. So, typical for Islay, I’d say. The smoke is a little bit sharp, but there’s barley and salinity to give it a bit of depth.

Swallow:
The finish has a flavor of “a dying bonfire on a beach”. So, charcoal, salt, brine, sand, oak, fire and smoke.

It’s pretty promising (and we’ve seen by now this is not wrong), but still too young and not with enough depth. I would never have guessed this was a sherry finish, because even that doesn’t come through.

Strangely, even for a promising like this, it is only promising since it is only three years old. Apart from that it’s rather underwhelming. Currently only available through the secondary market, for about € 200, I honestly would have expected a higher price tag since it’s a first, of a whole line of new distilleries.

80/100

Kilchoman 2006-2009, 3yo, Inaugural Release, Oloroso Sherry Finish, 46%

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Bowmore 2000-2014, 54.4% – Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange

I really was happy with all these 2000 Bowmores. It started with a slew of them around 2009 from Berry Brother’s & Rudd. Then, a few years later this one came out, and if I remember correctly there were a few more casks going around.

I bought it based on previous experiences with both Signatory Vintage and the selection from The Whisky Exchange. However, back in the day, I wasn’t overjoyed with my bottle. Keep in mind, that’s based on me looking for something else than I look for in a whisky nowadays.

Then, literally last week, I found a sample I kept of it, after not having the bottle anymore. I’m not entirely sure if I traded it, sold it in parts or just drank it with friends without giving it proper attention.

Anyway, now I did, I think.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very sooty at first nose, with only a little bit of the lemony crispness I know Bowmore for behind it. There’s an oily sweetness, with lemon balm, golden syrup and a bit of coffee treacle. Some straw, cookie dough and peat smoke too.

Sip:
The arrival is rather sharp with a lot of alcohol heat in it. Not much oak, but there’s a mossy, spirity flavor that’s rather nice. Crisp, with lemon, some minerals and slate. Lemon sherbet candy / Napoleon, with the heat turning into a bit of woody warmth after a while. Still quite syrupy and oily.

Swallow:
The finish mellows a bit, before some heat rises from your throat. Not very dry, but more of lemonade sweetness than before. Still there’s a bit of smoke which increases as the other flavors wane.

So, thinking back to 2014-ish, I can see why this wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. The Bowmores that were coming out were high voltage belters, mostly, and this one is a lot more gentle than I expected.

However, giving it some TLC five years after, I do think it’s a rather nice dram. It’s not too impactful and doesn’t change anything about my perception of Bowmore, Signatory Vintage or The Whisky Exchange. It does, however, change my view of this whisky. It’s quite a bit better than I thought back then.

86/100

Bowmore 2000-2014, 14yo, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel 800093, 54.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange.

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Glendullan 13, 2001, 56.2% – SMWS (84.17, Fluffernutter)

Who in the world can think of a thing like ‘Fluffernutter’ and NOT think of things with a PG rating? Fluffernutter? Really?

Anyway, this Glendullan, a whisky you don’t come across often, was bottled quite a while ago by the SMWS at 13 years old. It was drawn from a Refill Bourbon cask at 56.2%

Honestly, with what I know of Glendullan, we’re in for a bit of a bore. It’s just one of those distilleries that is producing whiskies for blending, and only occassionally has a single cask come out. Not entirely surprising, since it does generally come of as a bit of a blank canvas. Maybe this one is different?

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Image from The WhiskyPhiles, who also took part in the share.

Sniff:
Rather spirity, green and fresh. A whiff of oak, vanilla, and some minerals. Iron, green apple, slate.

Sip:
Quite some alcohol, chili heat and freshness. Again, quite green and spirity in a good way. Light, slightly dry and some foresty, moss like flavors.

Swallow:
Still somewhat sharp and hot, with green apples, moss and ferns. Short on the burn down though.

Right. Spirity in a good way, meaning it’s not only vanilla and some fruits from the cask. It does prove the rule of it being a blank canvas, because after tasting this and getting a bit of a feel for the distillery, it’s just not very rememberable.

There’s not much to say I guess. It’s not bad, but it’s not a whisky you want to go back to.

79/100

Glendullan 2001, 13 years old, Refill Bourbon Barrel 84.17, 56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society ‘Fluffernutter’.

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Highland Park 15, 2003-2019, 58.2% – Wu Dram Clan

So, Highland Park seems to have found their spot with single cask releases! A few years ago everybody was releasing ‘an Orkney whisky’, and now we’re getting Official Bottlings for chains of stores, single stores, clubs, whisky bars and whatnot.

The biggest drawback is that these whiskies are coming in at about € 150-180 for a 15 year old. The main redeeming factor is that they’re bloody amazing!

This one came out for the Wu Dram Club, of which Boris Borissov and Sebastian Jaeger (of Lagavulin and Springbank fame) are part, and it was them who sent me a sample for trying. Fun fact: When I looked it up on Whiskybase for more information, I found that there’s a bottling for ‘Dutch Flagship Stores’ that is the other half of the split cask! So, there’s ways to actually get this whisky!

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Sniff:
Strong on the nose with the alcohol masquerading the sherry a little bit. Lots of spices and fruit, but very clean. Candied fruits, with heaps of dried mango and apricot. Some cinnamon and other baking spices. Very tree bark like.

Sip:
It’s very strong on the arrival, with the sherry giving the whisky a dryness that’s a bit stronger than normally with Highland Park. The spices kick in again, with spiced pound cake. Clove, cinnamon, black pepper. Maybe some nutmeg too, freshly grated. There’s a bit of fruitiness too, with mostly apricot, and maybe some prunes.

Swallow:
The finish is a lot more mellow, but a little bit heavier on the palate. Even a bit leathery and tar like. Fruits and spices, dry oak dust.

The only thing that stops this from getting a 91 point mark from me, is the simple fact that I prefer Highland Park from bourbon casks. But enough with the nagging!

This is a cracking whisky and the dryness and spiciness, combined with a backdrop of tropical fruits makes this a cracking dram. It’s pretty strong, so not an easy drinker at the beginning of the evening, but one that can trump a lot on quite a few tastings.

I absolutely love the clear notes of baking spices, with these dried fruits. It’s not as rich as Christmas cake, but the spices are more pronounced and identifiable. Stunning stuff.

90/100

Highland Park 2003-2019, 15 years old, First Fill European Oak Sherry Cask #6162, 58.2% – Available through (I guess) the Wu Dram Whisky Clan and ‘The Dutch Flagship Stores’.
The bottle can be ordered through the Clan’s Facebook page.

Much obliged to Boris and Sebastian for sending a sample! Loved it!

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